“I’m serious, man! This is a bluegill. Weighed 5 pounds, too. Just lost some water weight, that’s all…”

Advice to northern visitors: Tell your walleye stories at home. You’re in Florida now. In one recent week I heard about “A huge snook, woulda gone 50 pounds,” and “One tarpon rolled at it, biggest ’un I ever seen, over 200, coulda been 300 pounds!”

A walleye is a perch, for heaven’s sake! And don’t start with how tasty they are until you’ve eaten some lane snappers or grouper or hogfish.(Even fish names are better down here. Walleye? What?)

A week ago I was in a fly fishing shop in Tampa, complaining to the owner how I’d not caught one bluegill at a spot he had recommended. Before I could finish he was nodding his head, opening his mouth like a guppy interrupting without speaking, minimizing my story. He jumped right in with, “We caught 47 there last Wednesday. Little number-eight bumble bee popper. I was fishing with Lucas Gravy, that ol’ boy from Tuscaloosa, used to be the Pentecostal preacher over in Deland. Good fisherman! I caught a 2-pound bluegill, nice fish.”

Instead of the usual wide-open-hand to indicate a big panfsh, he held his hands over two feet apart to indicate the fish’s length. Seeing my look of doubt he boldly continued: “I held it up to show it to
a guy fishing from the bank with a cane pole, and he reached down and lifted up one that had to go three pounds. Biggest ’un I’ve ever seen.” Instead of backing down on the 2-pounder, he went to three when I doubted him.

It illustrates an important rule: Don’t lie to people who know the local fish.

I’ve fished in Florida for over 60 years, and I’ve never seen a 2-pound bluegill outside a Cabela’s aquarium of mutants. Maybe a pound-and-a-half. An everyday stud momma or a copperheaded, big sucker, will run 9-10 inches, weigh around 14 ounces. I’ve put around three million Florida bluegills in the boat. Three pounders?

No way Jose! Note also that a master liar won’t wait for the other guy to finish. He will indicate that he has a better story during the other guy’s report. He’ll nod his head vigorously, agreeing with the liar, and hold up a hand like a school child, as if to say, “Ok, I’m next. Wait ’til you hear this.” He’ll start scrolling through his cell phone photographs, hinting at a bigger fish with pictures. The threat of photographs will sometimes slow down the original liar, or it can force him to further embellishments while it’s still his turn.

Given a moment’s hesitation, the good liar will jump in, coming right over the top with a lie that (a) is unbelievable and (b) unverifiable and (c) complete with details. No sense asking about the Tuscaloosa preacher. He would turn out to be “in the VA, dying of esophageal cancer he got from chewing Uruguayan tobacco,” and the guy on the bank with a cane pole would turn out to be, “Just an ol’ Florida redneck who’s done cleaned and eat that 3-pound bluegill, sure as heck.”

Forty-seven is a good number, not too strong, implying that the action was lively, skill was involved, and all the fish were “nice.” Numbers frame the lie, support it. Out of many fish came one giant. The “number-eight bumble bee popper,” lets the listener know that they were caught “on top,” not with sinking bugs or nymphs, which is a less stylish way to fish. Details tell the story.

One of the best, most consistent, outdoors liars I know uses this simple technique: He jumps to another fish without missing a beat. As you’re telling him about a good catch of bluegills, he’ll start nodding, agreeing that he’s caught ‘em that big himself, and say, “Oh, yeah, good, nice fish,” in a supportive way. Then, before you’re finished, he’ll abbreviate your story so it has no weight at all, talking over your wind-down, and say, “We’ve been catching some nice snook over in Fort Pierce. Got one 35 pounds last week on a live pilchard.” Where are your bluegills now?

You’ve gotta have a wide range of fish options, not just walleyes, and you’ve gotta listen, then lie. The frst liar doesn’t have a chance. FS

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